"IN PULLUS VERITAS"

(IN CHICKEN, TRUTH)

Author: Gillian Slater

E-mail: LeoricGS@aol.com

Rating: PG -13

Teaser: Michael escapes from the facility to spend Christmas with his family, where a few home truths are discovered....

Disclaimer: As always, these characters do not belong to me, they are the property of the show's creators, and I'm borrowing them for my own sinister purposes...

Note: This story is set just after the episode "Pulp Turkey", and please excuse any inaccuracies in my references to New York City... I'm English...

PART ONE

"What are you going to do with me on Christmas??"

This was the question which Morris had heard all too often since the fiasco at the Wiseman family home during Thanksgiving. The doctor knew what Michael was getting at. He wanted to see his family for the holiday, and Morris was determined that that simply wouldn't happen.

"The same thing that was meant to happen on Thanksgiving. You'll come with me to my sister's house, and spend Christmas there, remembering, of course, to eat only what I allow you to eat. I'll explain that you have a medical condition which requires dietary limitations." The doctor said, his tone offhand.

"No offence, Doc, I mean I'm sure your family are really great, but you shouldn't have to deal with me during the holidays. I'm work, and I wouldn't want work to spoil your vacation. Christmas should be relaxing, spending time with the people you love, not babysitting your science project."

"Don't think I don't know what you're doing, Mr. Wiseman. Nothing on this earth will persuade me to let you out for Christmas."

"Boy, the whole 'Peace on earth and goodwill to all men' idea really didn't hit home with you did it?" Michael's tone was bitterly sarcastic. "Or is it that you don't think of me as a man, just a government-issue artificial warrior, right?"

"I'm not having this conversation with you," Morris stated, flatly refusing to answer Michael's hurt accusations, "Because I know you're trying to beat me down with every different argument you can think of. I can't fault your strategy, though. It's just a good job the emotional pleas don't work on me. Now, it's 6:05. Time for you to spend some quality time alone. I'll see you tomorrow, Mr. Wiseman." The doctor turned and swept out of the room without a backward glance at his defeated subject.

Michael looked towards his room, his bed. No, he couldn't just go lie down and sleep like the obedient guinea-pig. That he never would be. Restless with frustration, he stripped off his shirt and took a massive dive, half-clothed, into the pool. He completed five lengths of the pool underwater before surfacing, not even out of breath. It felt good to drive all his frustration into pounding through the water at incredible speed. He took his fury out on the water, knowing there was no way he could simply drive his fist into the doc's smug face, and right now he really wanted to.

As he continued his anxiety-relieving exercise, diving to the very bottom and staying there for as long as he could, his acute hearing picked up the sound of the doorbell. Michael gulped in surprise, and suddenly his air was gone. He shot upwards and broke the surface spluttering, even as he scrambled out of the pool and grabbed a towel, drying himself vigorously as he rushed downstairs to the front door. His pounding heart and impeccable instincts told him who was on the other side even before he looked through the peephole to see Lisa hovering nervously outside.

She rang the bell again, and for a moment Michael seriously considered smashing the key-pad with his fist or ripping the door open. Instead, he turned to face the camera in the stairwell, looking earnestly up at it.

"Look, doc, I know you're watching, so how's about opening the door, huh? You can do that, right, it's all electronic so just punch in the code from your end." He looked expectantly at the camera as though it might reply, then continued to reason with it. "All the lights are on so she'll know I'm in here... and if you come in here just to open the door she's gonna get suspicious. You're supposed to be my boss, after all, not my keeper."

There was a long pause and Michael held his breath in anticipation of the decision. He heard three staccato tones from behind him, then, and the bolts slid open. "Thank you," he breathed quietly.

He opened the door to his wife's smiling face, and the chill evening breeze sent a shiver through his still-wet body. Lisa muddled though a halting greeting, obviously as excited as he to be face to face again. She looked him up and down, and the attraction in her eyes was immediately evident as she forgot the first lines of what was probably a well-rehearsed piece. Her expression was a mixture of excited admiration and confusion as she noted his bare chest still glistening with drops of water and his dripping hair.

"Ha-have you just got out of the shower?" She silently cursed herself immediately for asking such a dumb question.

"Swimming... I was swimming." Michael replied with fond amusement in his eyes as he watched her struggle to overcome the distraction caused by his half-clothed appearance and remember what she wanted to say. She took a deep breath and launched into rapid speech, fumbling with the hurried words.

"I... ahh, I was just wondering if you have plans for Christmas dinner this year, 'cause it's just that I felt so awful the way I treated you on Thanksgiving, and after you fought off those armed robbers and saved our lives and everything I just felt that this time I'd make up for it with a proper invite and, so... what I'm basically saying is, would you like to join Heather and me for Christmas dinner?"

Michael raked a hand through his soaking hair and leaned against the door frame, the chill air on his chest no longer bothering him as he looked questioningly into Lisa's eyes.

"You... want me to come for Christmas dinner? Wow, I mean, this is..."

"Oh, if you have other plans, then..."

"No! Not at all! It's just, well, I have to..." he struggled to find an excuse for his hesitation, "...Check with my boss first, you know, because working for Uncle Sam, a holiday's just another day, so..."

"You can't make it, then. It's okay." The disappointment in her voice was clearly audible.

"Wait! I... I just said I'll have to get permission, but... if I can the answer's yes. No question, I'd love to come, I mean I'd really love to." Lisa brightened.

"Listen, I seem to remember making you seriously angry when I stood you up last time, and to avoid that happening again, why don't I get my ticket of leave first and then call you to confirm? Uh, what's today...?"

"The 23rd, Wednesday." A sudden grin of childish delight swept across Michael's face.

"It's Christmas Eve tomorrow?" Lisa's affirmative came with a puzzled smile.

"Right." Michael continued quickly, "Ha, of course it is! So, I'll call you tomorrow?"

"Sure." Lisa slowly let out the breath she didn't realise she'd been holding. Supremely satisfied at having gotten at least a preliminary affirmative from him, the tension eased, her eyes began to rove over him again seemingly of their own volition, and Michael shivered for a different reason under her eager scrutiny.

Michael was pleased to affect such a reaction in her, and decided to keep her mind on the same track, at least for now, when he noticed the large bunch of mistletoe nestling in the top of her shopping bag. With the stealth he was engineered for, he pilfered a twig of the mistletoe and brought it up to her attention.

"What d'ya know? I always meant to hang some of this above my door, but I haven't managed to get hold of any."

"Oh, well you can have that bit," Lisa obliged.

It was the reply he had hoped for. Mumbling his thanks, he edged out of the doorway, turned, and put one hand up to the door frame. Lisa's eyes widened in surprise and she felt herself begin to breathe very heavily as she watched the athletic young man before her do a slow one-handed chin-up on the door frame and then suspend himself there as he impaled the twig of mistletoe on a rusty nail which had obviously been put there years ago for the same purpose.

He dropped to the floor with feline grace and swivelled back to face her, grinning his intent. "It's tradition..." he pointed out, seeing her follow his purposeful glance up to the dangling mistletoe. Lisa's eyes searched his smiling face, his laughing eyes and compelling lips and made her decision, giving a brief, salutary nod to 'tradition' before moving in to allow him to capture her face in his large hands and claim her lips with his own.

Her breath was quite literally taken away by the kiss, and her mind flew back to that evening on the subway platform. Then, just as much as now, she had felt something inexorably powerful in his kiss, the same incredible depth of feeling one simply wouldn't expect from a man she'd known for so short a time. He communicated a longing so intense and poignant it nearly moved her to tears, though she couldn't understand the reason for it.

What had begun as a somewhat predictable seasonal excuse to indulge her fantasies with the mysterious young man became something undeniably stronger as she moved into his full embrace, feeling his arms, those wonderfully muscular arms which displayed such feats of strength as she'd just witnessed encircle her as her own reached instinctively around his neck to curl her fingers in his soaking hair.

As their lips finally parted she opened her eyes to meet his. Seeing the fierce emotion which burned in his eyes as he clung to her, she was at once shocked, disturbed and breathlessly excited to find the same consuming possessiveness and need welling up inside herself. Who is this man?! Her heart raced as she became acutely aware of their close proximity, his chest still pressed against hers and her fingers still combing through the errant strands of wet hair at his nape.

She broke away, blushing furiously and lowered her eyes from his captivating face. Michael let his arms drop and stepped back, exhaling his pent-up tension loudly.

"Man," he breathed, "That's good mistletoe..."

This drew a shy smile from Lisa. "Well then, I'll be sure to hang plenty around the house on Christmas day." They both smiled, sharing on an unconscious level the knowledge that something powerful had just passed between them, but the need in their eyes now replaced with covering humour.

Lisa began to lose herself in his sparkling eyes again, thinking of all their past meetings and how even through such odd contact there had always been a lingering sense of familiarity to him. The eyes - the windows to the soul, she recalled the old adage, But whose?

She was staring again, Michael noted, and, just as it happened every time they interacted, a brief, heated conflict raged inside him. He could almost see the workings of her mind as she tried to fathom her obvious feelings for him and he fought the urge to remain locked in her gaze and let her figure him out, to pour his love and his soul into his eyes and let her see it, see him, but each time the voice of reason, the voice of perilous doubt told him to bail out, to cover, to prevent her form feeling his identity for fear that Morris would finally carry out his threats. The voice of warning triumphed once again, and he quickly blinked away all evidence of Michael Wiseman in his eyes and became 'Mr. Newman' again.

His polite cough sent both retreating to the embarrassed present, and Lisa haphazardly returned to the subject of Christmas dinner. Michael haltingly but genuinely reassured his wife that he'd call her to confirm.

Feeling keenly that she'd outstayed not her welcome, but certainly her own sense of propriety, she cast a wistfully appreciative glance over his glistening flesh once more, before abruptly pulling her eyes away and focusing rigidly on his face.

"You, ah, must be freezing stood at the door like this all soaking wet, so I'll..." She motioned towards the sidewalk.

"Uh-huh, yeah. I'd better get dressed anyway. I'll speak to you soon, then." He was awarded another one of her stunning shy smiles and reciprocated as she stepped away and continued on down the street. Michael gazed after her for as long as he dared and then closed the door and leant against it, taking long, contented breaths. He punched the air excitedly. "Yes!" He turned to the camera, then, with a gleeful expression.

"Doc', you and me got some serious talking to do tomorrow." He grinned widely as he imagined the furious expression that would be on Morris' face right now and headed for his bedroom, feeling more relaxed than he had in a long time.

* * * * *

Heather was perched on the edge of the kitchen table munching a piece of toast as Lisa walked in and dumped her shopping bags down unceremoniously on the surface, sighing wearily. Heather studied her mother's face shrewdly for a few moments and leaned forward in eager inquisition.

"So... what happened?"

"Huh?"

"You went to see him, right?"

Lisa's face was all innocence. "Who?"

Heather's expression was overcome with extreme scepticism. "Earth to Mom - this is me you're talking to! What happened with Mr. 'Hottie' Newman?"

"Well... I... stopped by his house to ask him to Christmas dinner just like you said." Her tone was purposefully light and dismissive.

"And?"

"And, he's thinking about it, or, well he said he wants to come but he's got to get permission so... he'll call."

"AND?!" Heather nearly fell off the table as she enthusiastically leaned still further forward. Lisa paused, maintaining the innocent look as long as possible before finally surrendering.

"And... he kissed me." She tried to sound casual but couldn't keep a little of the excitement she felt from reaching her eyes. Heather's look was triumphant, as though she took the credit for their encounter. After all, it had been her idea to invite Mr. Newman to dinner in the first place.

"Way to go Mom! I hope you used protection."

"Heather!" Lisa cried, shocked out of her deeper thoughts and staring at her daughter in outrage. Heather's face, however, showed no signs of guilt as she smirked shamelessly, pointing to the top of Lisa's shopping bag.

"Mistletoe," She said earnestly, "It's good luck, right?" Lisa let out a loud breath, trying desperately to force the mask of parental disapproval at the inuendo over her wicked grin, but clearly failing. Heather jumped off the table and headed out of the kitchen.

"And let's face it, the way you've been trying to chicken-out with Mr. Newman, you need all the help you can get!"

Lisa attempted to swat her playfully as she walked past, but Heather scooted smartly out of the way and grinned impishly as she walked out.

* * * * *